Support the Café

Search our Site

Is atheistic humanism sustainable?

Is atheistic humanism sustainable?

Giles Fraser, in a column in the British paper, the Guardian, suggests there is a tension between atheism and humanism.

Indeed, the fascinating question posed by Theos is whether an entirely atheistic form of humanism has the resources to sustain itself. If the foundational story of human origins is not that we are chosen by God but that we are descended from apes, what is it that makes human beings morally distinctive? Yes, of course I think Darwin was correct scientifically – but, as a story of human origins, evolution hardly encourages us to think of human beings as being unique as a species. Indeed, Darwin’s point is precisely the opposite. So how does humanism generate a sense of the human as being uniquely valuable? Some may say because we are rational. But are rational people more morally valuable than irrational ones? Surely not. No, it seems that making the human stand out as morally particular requires some sort of leap of faith.

Fraser, instead, argues that Christianity offers a better opportunity to those who might call themselves ‘humanist’

Be’ be’ (Nativity of Tahitian Christ) Gaugin – from WikiArt

Two thousand years later, when all the misleading tinsel has been pushed aside, it remains a shockingly subversive message. God is not to be discovered beyond Orion’s belt but down on Earth. Early cosmologists looked into the sky for clues to the whereabouts of God, but, incomprehensibly to them, the stars led towards a random shed on the back streets of a small town in the Middle East. From then on, think of God, think of a crying infant. Not a superhuman force, not even a human being enhanced by superhero-like powers, but a gurgling, pink and fleshy homo sapiens. It is the ultimate humanist narrative.

The report which Fraser is responding to is here

What do you think?  Is Fraser’s understanding of atheistic humanism correct?  Does he offer here an avenue of evangelism for people who might not otherwise be willing to listen to the story of Christ?

Posted by Jon White


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rod Gillis

Giles Fraser’s article is engaging. It explores the relationship between faith, in this case Christian faith, and humanism, which he argues, and he is not the first, that humanism is based on a least a kind of leap of faith. I welcome his views, especially as rejoinders to a kind of condescending atheism, one which is not content to simply disbelieve, but which approaches any kind of religious faith with a superiority attitude.

JC Fisher

Well, I thought Giles was drawing a false dichotomy (between “the morality of humanity” and “the morality of choice”), and said so, at Thinking Anglicans.

Giles called me (my comment) “dangerous” as a result. I think I’ll let my comments there stand.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Giles Fraser’s opinion piece in The Guardian seems intended to elicit lots of commentary. It is heavy on opinion and light on facts. Christians are not better than other people.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Chaz Brooks

“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” Ps. 127:1

I think there is a problem with any philosophy that doesn’t start with faith and gratitude to God. When we make humanity our highest good (the premise of humanism of whatever flavor), anyone that doesn’t get with the program becomes the enemies of the human race. This tendency to violence is contained in any system that doesn’t start with faith, including Christian ones no matter the pacifistic pretensions a system might make. The Kingdom of God, in the Scriptures, is the unconditional, unmerited free gift of God, and in that faith non-believers are as well off as believers. We are thereby free to love non-believers as ourselves.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café